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Withotit rigidly corresponding to exact ey cuts. Nixon in ( 'hiirti presents the tensions. understandings and priy ate doubts that attended the most famous and substantial ofall post-warsummits. ’l’he culmination ofgroundwork by Henry Kissinger. w ho made two preparatory trips to(‘hina in W71. the suggestion by Premier ( 'hou lin-lai of a meeting in Peking. ‘to seek normalisation of relations‘. appeared to offer Nixon the fulfilment of both a personal dream and a foreign policy goal.
()nly a right-w ing Republican with impeccable credentials as a cold warrior could hay e accepted ( 'hou‘s inyitation without being say aged at home lor appeasing ‘monolithic ('ominunism' and betraying 'l‘aiwan. Nixon had been swept into ( 'ongress on the Republican tide of 1040. having smeared his liberal New Dealer opponent as a Red; he played a major role in the House l 'n.-\merican Activities ('ommittee‘s harassment ol Alger lliss; he accused Helen ( iahagan Douglasof being ’as pink as her underwear" in the llt5lt(‘alilornia senate race; and as liisenhow er's running—mate in Wi‘. he had
tirelessly peddled the Republican myth that Truman and his intellectual advisers had invited the invasion of South Korea by allowing (‘hina to ‘goCommunist' during the Second (‘ivil War of 19-16—49.
Now. in 1971-72. a gaping Sino-Soviet split was there to be eXploited ifonly' (‘old War dogma could be ptit aside. and the question of Vietnam ptit off. Nixon the pragmatist and Kissinger the realist set about (as they saw it) luring (‘hina out of ‘angry isolation’. so as to ptit pressure on the Soviet l7nion and improve l‘S dealings with the 'l'hird World. without ieopardising existing alliances. White House chief ofstaffBob l laldeman later claimed that the rapprochement with (‘hina in 1‘)?! pre-empted an imminent Soy iet nuclear strike on Peking. It certainly led to triangular super-power diplomacy. American recognition of(‘hina under ( ‘arter and lull participation by ( him in global affairs. When he grasped ('hou's hand. wrote Nixon. ‘one era ended and another began‘.
There was another good reason for yisiting(‘hina in 1973. It yvasan election year. (ieorge .Nlc( ioy ern's poor show ing in November is often taken to mean that Nixon was a certaintv in ‘72. but in February . this was far from clear (hence the
underhand tactics later adopted by the ( 'ommitte to Re-Hect the President). Nixon was being energetically challenged for the Republican nomination by: two congressmen : cross-party polls had him trailing the early Democratic contender. lidmund .Nltiskie. in New l lampshire and holding only a slender lead in his home state. (’alifornia. Handled properly, a trip to ( ‘hina might provide a welcome boost to a sluggish Nixon campaign.
Before he left Andrews air force base. Nixon said he did not w ant his y isit to be an empty airingof ‘rhetoric. flamboyance and ia/f. btit the arrangements made by the White House for media coy erage told another story . 'lihe official
delegation w as just thirteen people.
bill the lull entourage w as oy er three hundred. Seventy American technicians had been in ( ‘hina for a
month before Nixon arrived. to
ensure that the pictures would get
I otit. ()nly American journalists were
allowed to join the visit as Nixon attempted to stage manage the coy erage back home, (Nixon had
i always beliey ed two things about the American media: that it was
immensely powerful. and that it had
never treated him fairly . ()n his return from ( ~hina. he orth
half— iokingingly recalled the envy
with which he had watched (‘hou
rearranging the front page proofs of the daily newspapers in Peking.)
In the opera Alice ( ioodman has captured Nixon's obsession w ith lilling headlines and flooding the
airway es. Descending with Pat from
his |et. "lihe Spirit of .7“. Nixitn manages a few pleasantrics. but as (‘hou attempts to maintain protocol. he is lost in his ow n thoughts: Newyhuyi1him/ofiriy'yreijy‘:
When I shook hands with ( ‘horr [iii-ho
()n [his bare lie/d oiiryiile I’e/x'iiig .lll.\‘!ll()l\'. rhe world was liyreiiiiig. . . Though we spoke quierlv
The eyes and ears olihiylory' ('uughrevervgeyirire. . .
xliiil (’l'r’H‘ woril. rruiis/oririiiig in
.‘l.\' we. transfixed. . .
.l/ilrlehryrory. . .
[is prime lime III the ( ISA.
For the Opera's rendition of the meetings between Nixon. .Nlao. Kissinger and (him. ( ioodman has drawn heavily on ( 'hinese political writings and the memoirs of the American participants. especially those of Nixon. She deploys many ol the original phrases. such as Nixon's declaration at a banquet. fuelled by the sorghum liquor. mao tai. and (‘alifornian champagne: "l he world watches. The world listens 'l'hc world waits to see what yy e will do . . .“l‘he \s‘ot‘ds ol the ( ‘hinese leaders are. therefore. heay ily retracted by the time we hear them. but the most enthralling thing about Nitoii or (how is the way in which librettist and composer succeed in capturing and contrasting. without eley atiiig one above the other. the subtlety ol .Nlao‘s philosophical discourse and paradox of( 'hou‘s metaphysical directness with the ordinary . sometimes banal. obsei y ations and compliments ollcr'ed by the Nixons and Henry Kissinger (During an expedition to the ( ireat \\ all. Nixon had remarked to the press corps. ‘I think you would hay e to conclude that this is a great wall‘; on their y isit to the lakeside mountainsol Hangchow . he said to ( 'hou lin-lai. ‘lt looks like a postcard ‘)
The character of Pat Nixon. easily overlooked or dismissed as patronisineg drawn. is. perhaps. the most interesting and complex: ranging from w hat Adams calls her wonderful Republican simplicity ' as she meets hotel kitchen workers and school children. or recalls the lile of a wartime housew dc. to Puritan visionary flights. iiispiied by a y isit to the gates oll ongeyity and ( iood Will. and an impassioned ( liclional) intervention in('hiang ( ‘h‘ing's play. It is a disturbing portrait ol a subservient American yy ilc. beautifully sung by lyric sopi ano
Henry Kissinger. an easy target. is played as a posturing lool by 'l‘liomas Hammons. pointedly doubling as the landlord's wicked agent in ‘ l he Red Detachment‘. Adams. ( ioodnian and Sellars told the ll'uy/iiiieloii I’m! they had found Kissingers memoirs so wordy and pompous they could not resist lampooning liiin.
Nixon in ( hiiiu is not an attempt to rescue the reputation of a disgraced politician. a piece of cultural sleight of hand to make \Natergale disappear. For all his efforts to play the elder statesman. the only American president to resign is still held in widespread contempt. ey en by those w ho share his political views. Neyerrheless. significant shifts are discernible in current perspectives on a man yy hose career made him more fully and continuously my oly ed than any other individual in the emergence of the post-war l initedStatesasa
superpower and dominant culture
.lohn Adams told The New York Times. during the recording of the opera. that as a student at Haryard oil the late l‘)(yll's. he ‘had the stitndar if i American perspective on Nixon: th ' embodiment of establishment yenality. I had to rid myselfof the caricature as soon as we decided tli ~ this would not be a satire.' He is not alone in seeking to rise aboy e the 4 popular memory.
Sensing that the "l'ricky' Dicky' image bequeathed by l-‘eiffer and l lerblock had for too long obsctlr't ' the real Nixon and prevented any evaluation of him that did not start with the murky tactics of his I louse and Senate campaigns WM» and NS”. dwell on his self-sery ing inembershipof l ll 'A( ‘ and end w i"‘ the ignominy of Watergate. Adam and ( ioodman hay e unconsciously joined the vanguard of rey isionist American historians trying to reassess a complex and sensitiy e man Richard Nixon. the rev isioiii ' point out. managed to become ‘on. of the most admired and loathed men in American political histoi y‘ and some maintain that he was the leading international figure of the age that followed ( ~htirchill. Stalin and Roosey ell. lhe lltle ol .loalt Holt-Wilson's lorthcoming study points the way: Nix/iii ll'i/hoiil
But regardless of the academics Americans today seem less concerned about ethics in gov ernment than at any time sinct the Wills and in the twilight ofa Reagan administration that has bi riddled with corruption. when acknowledging culpability seems I‘ longer to be a political or moral necessity. Richard Nixon (who found it impossible to concede tha' he was ever at fault ) is no longer so ' an unacceptable figure It ()llie North's ‘I thought it was a neat ide is iustilication enough for illegality the Reagan White House. and I'd .Nleese and his friends can see nothing wrong with cashing in on l2 occupancy of high office. then Nixon‘s w rong-di ting can be redtu to merely that of haying been loun ' out.
His friends in Peking hay e alw ay~ thought so. .limmy (‘arteiz who my itcd Nixon back to the White House to meet Deng Xiaoping in 107‘). recalled: 'lt wasoby iotis lroi~ their priy are comments. that lor rli (‘hincse he would always be a reyered lrienil. :iiid that they considered the charges iny olving Watergate lriyolous.' Nixon hims now talks ol Watergate as ‘a small thing'. handled badly . which undermined the big things. like rapprochment with ( 'hiiia.
l listor'y \y Ill be kind to him /he [frilly/l [ireiriiere of NI trill III ( hour In Hurry/on (ii'rriiil()/)erir it Iilhr'ﬂ/ur'i’ (ll I/Ir’ P/(H leer'. l'.i/iri/iiiig/i on 'I‘hiiry / Ne/iliil ",A’H/iiii. I: tlrir rfrllr’y. fir/til 5 Sep/ Ire/yen from l'eslii‘ri/ lie/yer (Him 3/ .lliir/sel .Nlreel. 03/ .735 V737). Nitoii III( hiiiir. recon/er! in New York by Ihe ()ri‘heylru o/ﬂNl [Jr/u' (’ulriflii’li'rf fry I'll/(I r/r' lliilrll'l. [95” iri'iri/ir/i/e III (I three reiori/ ( I). or
In ("f'HNH'Ht' yel Nimr'ym'fr 79/ 77
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